The regional district director for the North Westside says it’s going to be extremely difficult for the first six months as people try to recover from the McDougall Creek wildfire, especially for those who had property at Lake Okanagan Resort.
The situation for them is much murkier because of the complicated structure of the community.
Some units are individually-owned, others are within as many as five stratas, some are timeshares and the entire resort is owned by Chinese investors, who are in charge of the utilities and infrastructure.
“Sometimes your insurance won’t just pay you out. Sometimes you have to rebuild first before you can actually get out of the site,” says Wayne Carson, Central Okanagan West director on the Regional District of Central Okanagan board.
“I don’t know how their insurance is going to go. And it’s the same thing for the strata buildings. Hopefully the strata buildings had insurance and then it’s going to depend on each and every one of the residents there as to whether or not they had insurance to cover the structure itself and their contents."
“So, it’s going to be extremely interesting and difficult for the first six months,” he adds, saying the first six months after losing a home to a wildfire is also the most difficult time for many people.
Lake Okanagan Resort was bought out by Chinese investors in 2014. Despite the new ownership it still hasn’t seen many long-needed upgrades and repairs. It was embroiled in a couple of lawsuits in recent years and was fined nearly $50,000 in 2022 for sewage system violations.
Carson says some people who lost homes in the 2021 White Rock Lake wildfire are just now getting close to moving into their new homes, while others are only partway through the rebuilding process. He says it could take much longer for property owners at the resort.
“You’re going to be looking for a little bit more involved construction, a lot more construction and just getting some plans in place, and that."
“They lost that condo building on the south side. That had a lot of people living there. I’m thinking that the residential structures may come back faster than the hotel itself, but that’s really going to depend on what kind of insurance they had at the hotel,” Carson points out.
As for others in the area who are starting the recovering process, like those in Traders Cove, he expects the RDCO will help expedite the building permit approval process like they did for those affected by the White Rock Lake fire.
Carson is also going to push to have FireSmart principles built into regional district development policy.
“I’ve sat back and listened to the heartbreaking stories of many of the residents out here and just when I thought we were getting back on our feet, I’m starting at square one again with the south end of my district.”
He’s worried if something isn’t done to better protect homes, they might not be able to rebuild next time. “I do not want to see these homes undefended anymore. We need to stop the home ignitions that are happening on these fires or we’re not going to be getting any insurance.”